Plus One To Awareness

Yesterday 10pm local time ended my 24-hour vacation from any sort of connectivity (including the ability to “google” anything, text anyone, etc.) If you think it’s simple, try it in a place as connectivity-savvy as the Magic Kingdom. There’s an app to navigate the kingdom that includes line times, parade routes and hidden Mickeys. I couldn’t download or use that, no phone. There’s free wi-fi in the hotel and in the parks. Nope. In a line for Space Mountain where every 3rd person is lit from beneath (thanks to their iPhones and in a couple of cases, iPads), connectivity sure would provide an answer to the waiting game.

When I turned my phone off I made an analog list (pen, paper) of all the things I’d use connectivity for if I had the ability to, and the time.

  • At 11pm that night, finding it difficult to fall asleep and devoid of reading material (I had finished it), I really wanted to read my twitter feed to fall asleep, but I didn’t.
  • At 3am I wanted to look up the symptoms of food poisoning (yes, it was), but I didn’t.
  • At 9am the male child asked if he could bring his DS into the park to keep him occupied, and when I incredulously turned to him to explain the whole park was designed to keep him occupied, and discovered that he was teasing me, I really wanted to tweet it. But I didn’t.

And on it went. In the line for Space Mountain I wanted to share the statistical correlation between a person with an iPhone and a lag in line continuity, I wanted to look up the name/number of the restaurant we are to eat at tonight, I wanted to check the terms of the Disney Visa and see if it really was the good deal it was purported to be.

But the thing that really got me was pictures. I couldn’t take pictures.

Pictures of the male child when he finally got his sword (it’s impressive), of the lush greenery that would exist just fine here without the careful maintenance it gets, but would die in two weeks outside in Washington, of the attention to detail this park gives to its art and architecture. “The floors here are *really clean*,” the male person said, as we trotted along in line at Space Mountain. (This was fortunate for the teenager in front of us who, when the line stopped, would sit down on them. Just plopped right down. Even if the line moved again, and then she’d try to scoot along on her ass. Ridiculous, naturally.) It became a challenge to find something out-of-place anywhere.

Therefore, today, fully connected, app-in-hand, there will be pictures, and tweeting, and tweeting of pictures, and Foursquare check-ins, and more pictures.

PS  – for those wondering, my personal email for a 24-hour period counted 74 including advertisements, and 2 for legitimate communications. My work email counted 14, of which 8 were things that were not about me and completely resolved before I got online, 2 were social (one going away notice, one lunch notice), a meeting change notification, and 3 legitimate to the project I was working on.

PPS — Grog the Luddite would like to mention he’s really a sensitive, un-macho, really into stopping and smelling the roses guy and likes technology just fine and even knows a thing or to about it, he just wanted me to realize that there was life outside of it. Point taken.

In a World…

Greetings from Florida, where the weather has been 90’s (or slightly less) via humidity or temperature, take your pick. It has been mahvelous, apart from a few work hiccups. (Yes, I check work email; yes, it’s a habit; no, I don’t intend to stop).

Highlights from the last 3 days include staying at the in-law’s fabulous new home, with 3 steal-worthy kitties and an enviable pool. Also, we saw our first palmetto bug (dead) and discovered that there is decent pizza in Florida. A comfortable bed, good company, and great hospitality sure kick-off a vacation properly.

No, I didn’t steal the cat (his name was Barney). But I wanted to.

But! Off we headed, in our Alamo Rental Car (WARNING: super ranty blog post coming on that soon, but right now I’m in talks with their twitter customer service people), down to Orlando. And found ourselves at the Art of Animation Studios.

It’s nothing short of perfect. We have a room separate from the boychild, so he has his own bathroom and his own TV. We are on the top floor. We are in the Finding Nemo themed room, on the building with Sharks on it, on the level with a ginormous shark mural. The poolside food includes sushi. The WiFi is free. The front desk clerk told me to have a Magical Day and SketchYa Later, which from a theme park about animation was so precious and yet cheesy and yet I had a huge grin on my face as I departed check-in. (The only time that has happened before was on late-night work trips when I realized the ordeal was over and I was about to get to sleep).

Instead, we headed down to the pool. Two hours of Mommy reading the Economist and working on the obligatory burn (YES I USED SUNSCREEN MY SKIN DOES THAT OKAY?) and the boys swimming, and we’re back to the room showering and changing for dinner. Our towels were folded on the beds in Mickey Ears and Fish (with the whole Nemo theme). The toiletries are about level 4, with differentiated soaps.  I’m not sure I want to check out.

Tonight we are off to Downtown Disney, where we are to see the Percy Jackson movie (2nd one) in a dining-theater, I’m not sure which of the three of us is more excited, to be frank. The boy just read through all 5 original novels (and three of the sequels) right before summer started, we have seen the first movie, but the trailers for the 2nd look really good and the prospect of “dinner and a movie”, without having to hassle driving or timing (they serve dinner… at the movie), is really comforting.

Especially for someone who has spent 450 words, up to the beginning of this sentence, enjoying things and augmenting that enjoyment by sharing over the internet. Because in less than five hours, I’m going offline. Completely. Internetless, textless, foursquare-less, email-less, twitter-less, Facebook-less until Saturday morning local time. It will be a first in many years. My son looked at me agog as I patiently explained that our wallets, AND our cell phones, were going in the safe. It’s like I told him Aliens would land tomorrow. That said, he too is looking forward to the challenge.

For those of you who know my penchant for the Pirate League, and getting made up into a Pirate Princess (SPECIAL shout out to ExpediaManny), I WILL be doing that and taking pictures — but we scheduled for Saturday, so I could live-tweet it. I know you’re stoked, as I am.

Vacation: it means different things to different people, and mine is going to 11.

Please Stand By

Greetings from Chicago O’Hare, and my second time EVER being here not as a business traveler. Bonus points for the food court between K and G gates.

It’s 6:30 in the morning, and we left Seattle at midnight local time “last night”; ergo, we are running on about three hours’ sleep. The reality of flying to a non-major city (hello, Jacksonville) is you either spend your entire day, or your entire night, flying, because you’re going to be stopping over someplace that is not quite but almost entirely out of any reasonable travel path between your points A and B. In this case to maximize our time with family and fun, we are spending the entire night. It’s not completely awful.

If you think about it, one of the most common ways to placate the boredom, frustration, and general weariness associated with modern travel, is your electronic leash. It may be a laptop; it may be an iPhone or a Crackberry. It used to be a book, but books are losing this race. I am sitting at our gate and follow me around the room: teenager across from me on iPhone. His Dad on iPhone. Behind him, lady with full back and arm tattoos (thanks to her tank top) pulling her cell phone out of her bag. Business lady on an iPad. Businessman on a Blackberry. Other businessman eating, iPhone, iPhone while eating, iPad, something-not-quite-an-iPad but not a Kindle, either.

Our connectivity gives us the opportunity to not connect with others. Anyone stuck in an elevator with (shudder) other humans will note two things: 1. The propensity for an elevator full of strangers to be, in fact, an elevator full of strangers looking at their smartphones, and 2. That the people in the elevator, in the absence of interpersonal communication thread active as they entered the elevator, will space themselves out as far apart from each other as possible. (E.g., if there’s one person in the elevator they’re dead center or in the corner. If there are two, you have upper corner and rear opposite corner. Three are usually one in front middle, two in the rear corners. Four = all four corners. Five = all four corners plus one in middle. And so on.) If ever you’re bored and don’t mind messing with other people’s personal space (and yours), deliberately defy this mechanism.

Yours truly is on her laptop, as it is my electronic babysitter as we wait at the gate for a couple of hours. This is wholly unremarkable with the exception that I know, coming up, I will have a day without connectivity.

I tried, the other night, to trace back how long I’ve had some form of connectivity (to the internet, I suppose), and as best as I can figure that started when I moved back up to Washington and started working for Premera. I think we’re looking at Spring 2001. But the connectivity wasn’t all-encompassing, all-binding until I started working for Expedia, 3 years later. I’ve had a blog since 2005 (not this one), “smartphone” of some sort since 2006, a Twitter account since 2007.

Nine years at Expedia trained me to expect emails 24/7 (this is the boon to working for an international company and having international internal customers). Moving  to Sur La Table has meant a dearth of weekend email. After about 6pm on a Friday it slows to a halt, and doesn’t kick up again (apart from automatic job notifications) until Monday morning. Twice now I have sent myself a test email to my work account to verify that it’s still working.

My addiction to this connectivity is starting to get noticed, and, while normally the recipient of a shaking head or an arched eyebrow, has spawned a bet by Grog the Luddite (Grog works with me, sits in what is referred to the “Man Cave Annex”, and does not understand addiction to connectivity. For “fun”, Grog went to Montana to go do crazy physical acts – like carrying other grown men for ½ mile – in high heat). Grog has declared that for a full 24 hour period, I am not to have any connectivity. To test myself. Like an alcoholic preparing for a day without booze I’m already nervous and wondering what my coping mechanisms will be. It will help that the day selected is a day we’re at the Magic Kingdom all day, right? Well no, because then I don’t get to do my Foursquare check-ins. And what about using Yelp reviews to pick the better eating options? And what if something happens at work?

Because that’s the real crux: what if something happens at work, and they need me, and I’m not available? That’s bad enough. What if something happens at work, and they don’t need me – or discover I’m not needed? Ridiculous, yes, but when you love your job that’s the irrational fear that comes with it.

So Friday it is. From Thursday night whenever I hit the rack, to the following Saturday morning when I awake, I will be totally, and completely, offline. The phone will be on to receive calls, but all email accounts will be turned off, cellular data will be turned off, and my phone will just…be a phone. By way of publishing this now, I am that alcoholic putting in place an integrity check: I’ve SAID I’m going to do it, now I have to do it.

I honestly don’t know what my reaction will be. I wonder if I’ll be irritated by the lack of convenience – or if like a mosquito bite I ignore it long enough I simply forget it? I will be sure to blog all about it… on Saturday.

The “Dolphin”

Ok, little known fact: I have a BS (Bachelor of Science, not Bull Sh!t) Degree in Zoology. As such, it took me about 45 minutes of concentrated staring to discover why the “Dolphins” of the Walt Disney World “Dolphin” Resort threw me for a loop. It wasn’t that they were cartoon stylized. It wasn’t the scales (ok, that was part of it). It was the complete lack of a dorsal fin.  After deciding this was the only thing wrong with this resort, I laid back and enjoyed myself.

Look, you can go to Expedia or even the WDW site to find out how lovely this place is, you can see pictures, etc. I’ll offer you the things that aren’t spelled out:

1. The all important toiletry rating: “plus”… it has separate Shampoo, Conditioner, Lotion; all good stuff. No funky smells, nice and gender neutral. Also, flip-top caps. And they replenish daily.

2. Everyone is friendly. EVERYONE. Maids, pool lifeguards, the guy who advises you on sunscreen, waitstaff, busboys, gardeners, etc. EVERYONE. It’s kind of bizarre, and kind of cool.

3. The busses are worth it when going to the parks, but understand that they come as they come — so it may take up to 15 minutes for one to show for the destination you want. They do go all over the place– in the park. If you want to go outside of the park, I’ll write about that later.

4. The Grotto Pool — best seats are under the waterfall (especially if you, you know, burned yourself to a crisp on day one) or across from the waterfall. The Cabana Restaurant will happily serve you drinks and food at the bar, but will not deliver. You can charge that to the room, along with floatie rentals, sunscreen (yep, it is $17, so you may want to check a bag to pack that), kids goggles, etc. Towels are complementary and thick. They have a water slide to go with the waterfall, and it’s fun — this big kid already did it. Twice.

5. If your typical breakfast is Starbucks, head to the Java Bar at the Swan (it’s a nice walkway to the hotel across — about a block). If you want sit-down, head to the Garden restaurant in the Swan, they have character breakfast on the weekend. Note– sweet stuff is almost cloying sweet, so those chocolate chip pancakes? Really love chocolate. Those apple cinnamon crepes? REALLY love apples and cinnamon.

Other stuff: there’s a National/Alamo rental car company in the hotel, and I will point out it’s cheaper to rent a car for a day for when you want to go to, say, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (at Universal) vs. a cab. Same day rentals are available in the lobby.

Next post: “Budget” travel (no, not really).